Review: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Review: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is a pure visceral cinema of post-apocalyptic madness filled with electrifying action, crazy stunts and surrealistic visual beauty.


Once a project suffered from development hell, the fourth instalment of the MAD MAX series was supposed to start production back in 2001. Then came a series of production delays as well as financial difficulties due to 9/11, location issue at the Australian outback and security concerns while attempting to film in Namibia. Such troubled production history often spells disaster-in-the-making but thankfully, the movie shows a lot of promise after the first teaser for MAD MAX: FURY ROAD finally debuted last December at SDCC (San Diego Comic-Con). The teaser alone was an instant hit among fans of the MAD MAX series and became one of the highly-anticipated summer movies of 2015. The good news is, after thirty years since MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME in 1985, I'm glad that the fourth movie really lives up to its hype.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD takes place in the desert wasteland where a drifter named Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is haunted by his dark past. After trying to escape from a group of scavengers, he is eventually captured and imprisoned inside the rocky mountain lair of Citadel -- a fortress ruled by a ruthless warlord known as Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Max eventually finds himself caught in the middle of chaos when he meets Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a tough rebel who quietly smuggled Immortan's precious "breeders" (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee and Courtney Eaton) out of Citadel while driving a War Rig truck. With Immortan on the wheel, he sends his pale-faced warriors known as War Boys to pursue them and retrieve the "breeders" at all cost.

THE GOOD STUFF
 
After spending the last decades directing family-friendly features such as BABE: PIG IN THE CITY (1998) and HAPPY FEET (2006), it's nice to see George Miller returns to his original root with another MAD MAX movie. Although he's been out of the post-apocalyptic action genre for so long, rest assured that his technical expertise isn't anywhere near rusty form. Instead, he's better than ever and proves he still among the best action directors that put most like-minded filmmakers of today's generation to shame. Whereas big-budget summer blockbusters these days focus more on CGI-heavy materials, Miller insists to film his action sequences as practical as possible with real stunts and real location with little assistance of special effects. The result is a stunning motion picture where the action truly delivers. Thanks to Miller's cinematic direction and Guy Norris' impressive stunt choreography, there's a sense of palpable danger the way all the characters involved in a series of vehicular mayhem and gritty hand-to-hand combats.

Not to forget also is John Seale's epic cinematography that looks terrific, especially the subtle use of orange and teal colour during daylight and nighttime sequences. Junkie XL's propulsive score matches well with the visceral intensity of the movie, while the rest of the technical credits, particularly for its gonzo vehicle designs are downright imaginative.

As the new Max Rockatansky, Tom Hardy displays a mix of rugged charm and feral quality to his physically-demanding role. But surprisingly, it was Charlize Theron that stands out the most as Imperator Furiosa. Apart from Tina Turner's flashy performance as Aunty Entity in MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME, this is the second time where Miller has successfully created a strong female character and Theron delivers her role with a right amount of grit and raw emotion. In fact, her action-centric performance is so good that she's certainly deserved to be ranked alongside Sigourney Weaver's Lt. Ellen Ripley in the ALIEN quadrilogy and Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor in the first two TERMINATOR movies. Nicholas Hoult is equally fantastic as Nux, a young and highly-determined War Boy who wants to prove his worth as a true warrior.

In what could have been a few thankless roles appearing nothing more than a bunch of pretty faces, Miller ensures that the four models-turned-actresses -- Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee and Courtney Eaton -- shine admirably with worthwhile personalities. Hugh Keays-Byrne, who previously appeared in the first MAD MAX movie as the villainous Toecutter, is adequate enough as the monstrous-looking Immortan Joe.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)
 
The first elaborate chase sequence along the desert and ends in the middle of gigantic dust clouds is particularly a technical triumph of breathtaking action and dazzling visual flair.

THE BAD STUFF
  
No doubt Hardy is great in terms of displaying physical prowess, but I can't help the fact that his character is somewhat underutilised. Here, he is mostly reduced to a secondary role that doesn't leave much lasting impression if compare with Mel Gibson's memorable performance as the original Max Rockatansky. And whether or not this is intentional, Hardy can't seem to shake off the deja vu feeling of repeating his Bane character from THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012) with the same strange accent. Whereas that particular accent works well with his portrayal as Bane, it feels off-putting listening the way he speaks in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.

For all the adrenaline rush that Miller manages to display over the course of two hours, there are times the action starts to wear off and becomes repetitive. This is especially evident during some of the sequences in the climactic finale.

FINAL WORDS
 

Despite some of the flaws, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is an excellent follow-up that cleverly abandons the kid-friendly approach of MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME and more onto MAD MAX 2 a.k.a. THE ROAD WARRIOR-filmmaking style. It also earns its place as one of the best summer movies of the year. A must-see for every action fan.

* This review is written courtesy from Warner Bros Malaysia press screening *

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